NHS commissioning has reached the most critical point in its development since 1990. That is the conclusion of a major new research report published by the University of Birmingham’s Health Services Management Centre and the NHS Alliance today.

‘Commissioning in the reformed NHS: policy into practice’ throws new light on the complex commissioning and governance responsibilities facing re-structured primary care trusts (PCTs) and practice-based commissioners. It spells out in detail the many activities that PCTs and practice-based commissioners will need to carry out if they are to make a success of ‘commissioning a patient-led NHS’.

The report has a strong practical focus and provides a current snapshot of commissioning ‘work in progress’ in the NHS, highlighting case studies of how managers, doctors and nurses are setting about the task of planning, funding and purchasing new patterns of services for their local populations.

Stark warnings are also contained in the report that current patterns of PCT governance are unlikely to be sustainable in the longer term and that new skills for commissioners are required - if the more sophisticated commissioning arrangements are to work effectively.

Dr Michael Dixon, Chairman of the NHS Alliance said, ‘This report is exactly what we want to see - evidence of front line clinicians and managers shaping the new commissioning task in innovative and thoughtful ways and working creatively with local communities to meet their needs.’

Judith Smith, Senior Lecturer and Director of Research at the University of Birmingham’s Health Services Management Centre, who has led the research that backs the new findings, said, ‘All primary care trusts face a significant expansion in the overall commissioning function and the skills development and changes in governance identified in the report are now urgent. New PCTs will need to address these challenges as an immediate priority in 2006.’

A one-day seminar based on the report will be held in London on Tuesday May 23rd 2006 at 1 Great George Street, London. (Details from: mailto:i.leeman@bham.ac.uk?subject=NHS%20Commissioning%20-%20seminar%2023%20May%2006 or 0121 414 7058).


Notes to editors:

For more information, contact:

Pat Goodall – NHS Alliance Press Office

tel: 01246 410707 / email: patgoodallmcintosh@googlemail.com

Rachel Robson – Head of News Team, University of Birmingham

tel: 0121 414 6681 / mob: 07789 921165 / email: r.a.robson@bham.ac.uk

Definition of NHS Commissioning:

‘Commissioning’ is the strategic planning and resource allocation function of the NHS, mostly done by Primary Care Trusts (PCTs). It involves buying in services from a range of health service providers (including GPs, dentists, and community pharmacists, NHS and private hospitals, and voluntary sector organisations) to meet the health needs of local people, and monitoring how well they are being delivered.

Report details:

The research report, ‘Commissioning in the reformed NHS: policy into practice’, is available from the NHS Alliance website www.nhsalliance.org or from the HSMC website www.bham.ac.uk/hsmc/news